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PRIMARY SOURCE # 1:
Red Cloud was chief of the Oglala Teton Sioux. He was an important leader who opposed white
incursions into Native American lives and territory, although he openly advocated peace
whenever possible and did not support the more violent actions of Crazy Horse and his
followers. Red Cloud was noted as a warrior and a speaker. In the excerpt below, he explains
the plight of his—and indeed all—Native American peoples in the last decades of the 1800s.
Chief Red Cloud's Speech
I will tell you the reason for the trouble. When we first made treaties with the Government, our
old life and our old customs were about to end; the game on which we lived was disappearing;
the whites were closing around us, and nothing remained for us but to adopt their ways,-the
Government promised us all the means necessary to make our living out of the land, and to
instruct us how to do it, and with abundant food to support us until we could take care of
ourselves. We looked forward with hope to the time we could be as independent as the whites,
and have a voice in the Government.
The army officers could have helped better than anyone else but we were not left to them. An
Indian Department was made with a large number of agents and other officials drawing large
salaries-then came the beginning of trouble; these men took care of themselves but not of us. It
was very hard to deal with the government through them-they could make more for themselves
by keeping us back than by helping us forward.
We did not get the means for working our lands; the few things they gave us did little good.
Our rations began to be reduced; they said we were lazy. That is false. How does any man of
sense suppose that so great a number of people could get work at once unless they were at
once supplied with the means to work and instructors enough to teach them?
Our ponies were taken away from us under the promise that they would be replaced by oxen
and large horses; it was long before we saw any, and then we got very few. We tried with the
means we had, but on one pretext or another, we were shifted from one place to another, or
were told that such a transfer was coming. Great efforts were made to break up our customs,
but nothing was done to introduce us to customs of the whites. Everything was done to break up
the power of the real chiefs.
Those old men really wished their people to improve, but little men, so-called chiefs, were made
to act as disturbers and agitators. Spotted Tail wanted the ways of the whites, but an assassin
was found to remove him. This was charged to the Indians because an Indian did it, but who set
on the Indian? I was abused and slandered, to weaken my influence for good. This was done by
men paid by the government to teach us the ways of the whites. I have visited many other tribes
and found that the same things were done amongst them; all was done to discourage us and
nothing to encourage us. I saw men paid by the government to help us, all very busy making
money for themselves, but doing nothing for us. . . .
The men who counted (census) told all around that we were feasting and wasting food. Where
did he see it? How could we waste what we did not have? We felt we were mocked in our
misery; we had no newspaper and no one to speak for us. Our rations were again reduced.
You who eat three times a day and see your children well and happy around you cannot
understand what a starving Indian feels! We were faint with hunger and maddened by despair.
We held our dying children and felt their little bodies tremble as their soul went out and left only
a dead weight in our hands. They were not very heavy but we were faint and the dead weighed
us down. There was no hope on earth. God seemed to have forgotten.
Some one had been talking of the Son of God and said He had come. The people did not know;
they did not care; they snatched at hope; they screamed like crazy people to Him for mercy they
caught at the promise they heard He had made.
The white men were frightened and called for soldiers. We begged for life and the white men
thought we wanted theirs; we heard the soldiers were coming. We did not fear. We hoped we
could tell them our suffering and could get help. The white men told us the soldiers meant to kill
us; we did not believe it but some were frightened and ran away to the Bad Lands. The soldiers
came. They said: "don't be afraid-we come to make peace, not war." It was true; they brought us
food. But the hunger-crazed who had taken fright at the soldiers' coming and went to the Bad
Lands could not be induced to return to the horrors of reservation life. They were called Hostiles
and the Government sent the army to force them back to their reservation prison.
PRIMARY SOURCES #2 and #3
The Sand Creek Massacre at Fort Lyon, Colorado (1864), like most historical events, can be
described differently depending on the point of view of the person doing the describing. As a
case in point, below is a report of the event published by a local newspaper, The Rocky
Mountain News, shortly after the bloodshed came to an end.
Following its conclusion, read Helen Hunt Jackson’s account of the massacre, which is taken
from her book, A Century of Dishonor. A Century of Dishonor brought national attention to the
plight of Native Americans when it was published in 1881. As you will see, Jackson depicts the
events at Fort Lyon in a far less glorious light that the author of the editorial in The Rocky
Editorial from the Rocky Mountain News (1864)
Among the brilliant feats of arms in Indian warfare, the recent campaign of our Colorado
volunteers will stand in history with few rivals, and none to exceed it in final results. We are not
prepared to write its history, which can only be done by some one who accompanied the
expedition, but we have gathered from those who participated in it and from others who were in
that part of the country, some facts which will doubtless interest many of our readers ...
At Fort Lyon the force [of Colorado volunteers] was strengthened by about two hundred and fifty
men of the first regiment, and at nine o'clock in the evening the command set out for the Indian
village. The course was due north, and their guide was the Polar star. As daylight dawned they
came in sight of the Indian camp, after a forced midnight march of forty-two miles, in eight
hours, across the rough, unbroken plain. But little time was required for preparation. The forces
had been divided and arranged for battle on the march, and just as the sun rose they dashed
upon the enemy with yells that would put a Comanche army to blush. Although utterly surprised,
the savages were not unprepared, and for a time their defense told terribly against our ranks.
Their main force rallied and formed in line of battle on the bluffs beyond the creek, where they
were protected by rudely constructed rifle-pits, from which they maintained a steady fire until the
shells from company C's (third regiment) howitzers began dropping among them, when they
scattered and fought each for himself in genuine Indian fashion. As the battle progressed the
field of carriage widened until it extended over not less than twelve miles of territory. The
Indians who could escaped or secreted themselves, and by three o'clock in the afternoon the
carnage had ceased. It was estimated that between three and four hundred of the savages got
away with their lives. Of the balance there were neither wounded nor prisoners. Their strength
at the beginning of the action was estimated at nine hundred.
Their village consisted of one hundred and thirty Cheyenne and with Arapahoe lodges. These,
with their contents, were totally destroyed. Among their effects were large supplies of flour,
sugar, coffee, tea, &c. Women's and children's clothing were found; also books and many other
articles which must have been taken from captured trains or houses. One white man's scalp
was found which had evidently been taken but a few days before. The Chiefs fought with
unparalleled bravery, falling in front of their men. One of them charged alone against a force of
two or three hundred, and fell pierced with balls far in advance of his braves ...
Among the killed were all the Cheyenne chiefs, Black Kettle, White Antelope, Little Robe, Left
Hand, Knock Knee, One Eye, and another, name unknown. Not a single prominent man of the
tribe remains, and the tribe itself is almost annihilated. The Arapahoes probably suffered but
little. It has been reported that the chief Left Hand, of that tribe, was killed, but Colonel
Chivington is of the opinion that he was not. Among the stock captured were a number of
government horses and mules, including the twenty or thirty stolen from the command of
Lieutenant Chase at Jimmy's camp last summer.
The Indian camp was well supplied with defensive works. For half a mile along the creek there
was an almost continuous chain of rifle-pits, and another similar line of works crowned the
adjacent bluff. Pits had been dug at all the salient points for miles. After the battle twenty-tree
dead Indians were taken from one of these pits and twenty-seven from another.
Whether viewed as a march or as a battle, the exploit has few, if any, parallels. A march of 260
miles in but a fraction more than five days, with deep snow, scanty forage, and no road, is a
remarkable feat, whilst the utter surprise of a large Indian village is unprecendented. In no single
battle in North America, we believe, have so many Indians been slain …
A thousand incidents of individual daring and the passing events of the day might be told, but
space forbids. We leave the task for eye-witnesses to chronicle. All acquitted themselves well,
and Colorado soldiers have again covered themselves with glory.
Helen Hunt Jackson's Account of Sand Creek (1881)
. . .The Governor of Colorado called for military aid, and for authority to make a campaign
against the Indians, which was given him. But as there was no doubt that many of the Indians
were still peaceable and loyal, and he desired to avoid every possibility of their sharing in the
punishment of the guilty, he issued a proclamation in June, requesting all who were friendly to
come to places which he designated, where they were to be assured of safety and protection.
This proclamation was sent to all the Indians of the plains. In consequence of it, several bands
of friendly Arapahoes and Cheyennes came to Fort Lyon, and were there received by the officer
in charge, rationed, and assured of safety. Here there occurred, on the 29th of November, one
of the foulest massacres which the world has seen. This camp of friendly Indians was surprised
at daybreak, and men, women, and children were butchered in cold blood. Most of those who
escaped fled to the north, and, joining other bands of the tribe, proceeded at once to take most
fearful, and, it must be said, natural revenge. . . .
In October of the next year some of the bands, having first had their safety assured by an old
and tried friend, I. H. Leavenworth, Indian Agent for the Upper Arkansas, gathered together to
hold a council with United States Commissioners on the Little Arkansas. The commissioners
were empowered by the President to restore to the survivors of the Sand Creek massacre full
value for all the property then destroyed; "to make reparation," so far as possible. To each
woman who had lost a husband there they gave one hundred and sixty acres of land; to each
child who had lost a parent, the same. Probably even an Indian woman would consider one
hundred and sixty acres of land a poor equivalent for a murdered husband; but the offers were
accepted in good part by the tribe, and there is nothing in all the history of this patient race more
pathetic than the calm and reasonable language employed by some of these Cheyenne and
Arapahoe chiefs at this council. Said Black Kettle, the chief over whose lodge the American flag,
with a white flag tied below, was floating at the time of the massacre, "I once thought that I was
the only man that persevered to be the friend of the white man; but since they have come and
cleaned out our lodges, horses, and everything else, it is hard for me to believe white men any
more. All my friends, the Indians that are holding back, they are afraid to come in; are afraid that
they will be betrayed as I have been. I am not afraid of white men, but come and take you by the
hand." Elsewhere, Black Kettle spoke of Colonel Chivington's troops as "that fool-band of
soldiers that cleared out our lodges and killed our women and children. This is hard on us." With
a magnanimity and common-sense which white men would have done well to imitate in their
judgments of the Indians, he recognized that it would be absurd, as well as unjust, to hold all
white men in distrust on account of the acts of that "fool-band of soldiers."
PRIMARY SOURCE #4:
In the early years of the mining and cattle towns of the West, probably a majority of the women
in those towns were prostitutes. Like the cowboys and miners they serviced, most of the
prostitutes were unmarried and young (in their teens or twenties). Many worked for themselves.
A few were able to marry into respectable society; some bought or rented brothels or became
madams. In Helena, Montana, one of the most prosperous real estate speculators was an
Irish-born former prostitute known as “Chicago Joe.” For most, however, prostitution was literally
a dead-end job. Two-thirds of the women engaged in prostitution died young from sexually
transmitted diseases, botched abortions, alcohol abuse, narcotics abuse, suicide, or murder.
Moreover, at the towns developed and the population grew, the era of independent prostitutes
gave way to a system characterized by central ownership. More and more prostitutes worked for
pimps or landlords, who took most of the profits derived from prostitution in the West.
The West was a place of complexities and contradictions. Many people came from somewhere
else, and the mixture of cultures contributed to the uniquely American character of the West.
The new communities of the West threw people into contact with characters they would never
have met had they stayed in the East. This document is from the reminiscences of Nannie
Tiffany Alderson. The daughter of a Confederate officer who was killed as the first Battle of Bull
Run, Alderson was born in 1860, in the part of Virginia that would later become West Virginia.
While visiting a sister who had married and moved to Kansas, she met Walter Alderson, whom
she later married. Walter Alderson went to Montana to select a site to begin a cattle ranch.
When Nannie joined him in 1883, only seven years had passed since the defeat of George
Armstrong Custer at the Little Bighorn. The Aldersons found it difficult to establish themselves,
and they lived in several locations over the next number of years. Many years later, Alderson
told her story to Helena Huntington Smith, who published them as A Bride Goes West (1942).
In the excerpt below, Alderson describes an incident that occurred while her husband was
building a new house and she was staying alone in Miles City, Montana. The product of an
established southern family, Nannie Alderson had traditional social attitudes. Her experiences in
the West, however, exposed her to many people and customs that were completely alien to her
upbringing. In the incident related below, Nannie unknowingly falls into the company of a kept
woman who had apparently worked as a prostitute.
Nannie Alderson, from A Bride Goes West (1942)
I had two more rather unusual experiences in Miles City. The first one was not without its humor.
After all I have said in praise of broadmindedness, it may well appear that the joke was on me.
Once a week during that summer I stayed at the Macqueen House, I would take the baby into
the hotel parlor for the morning, while the chambermaid gave my room a thorough cleaning.
One morning when I had moved in there with my sewing . . . a dark-haired, dark-eyed young
woman came into the room. She was striking in appearance and smartly dressed. I had seen
her before, and knew she was staying at the hotel, but had never had occasion to speak to her.
She got down on her knees and began making a fuss over the baby, who was of course
delighted. Then she started talking to me. She told me she was waiting for her husband, who
was on his way up the trail from Texas with cattle. She didn’t know how much longer she would
have to wait, and she was so lonely.
I could sympathize. I was lonely too. I offered her books; she said she had plenty to read.
Then I said, rather hesitantly: “I take the baby out every afternoon in her carriage. It is not very
thrilling, but if you would care to go with us –”
Well, she jumped at the offer.
So a day or two after that, when the baby and I were getting ready to go out for our walk, I went
and knocked at the door of her room to invite her to come with us. A voice said: “come in.” I
opened the door – and there she stood in front of her bureau, with hardly more than a stitch of
clothing on; just a little chemise. She was pinning on her hat. I must confess that I was taken
aback, though I could not help noticing that she had a very pretty figure. I asked her if she cared
to go walking. She explained that she had another engagement. Although my mind did not work
very quickly, it did seem strange to me at the time that she should say “Come in” like that, when
she could not know who was knocking at the door. It might have been anybody!
Very shortly afterwards I learned, from the hotel proprietor’s sister, that she was one of the most
notorious women in the West at that time. The facts had only just come out. This woman – her
name was Connie – had a habit of going out on the hotel porch after dinner, and talking with the
men, and one day while she was sitting there the madam of a house of ill fame in the city had
come by and recognized her, and had told the hotel proprietor. She was asked to leave the
hotel at once, and her protector also. A wealthy stockman had been keeping here there, but she
had been so quiet that no one had suspected anything. Even looking back, I could see only one
thing that could be questioned in her conduct; she would to down to breakfast in the hotel
wearing a very beautiful satin mother hubbard, hand-painted with flowers, which was hardly
appropriate for a public dining room.
To think that I was only saved from walking out on the public streets with her by the fact that she
had another engagement –! However, it is possible that she was not wholly sincere in her desire
to go walking with the baby and me. . . .
We heard later that she went straight back to the red light district. She did not stay there long.
There was a wealthy Englishman, among several such around Miles City at that time, whose
brother later came into a title; and this man set her up in an establishment of her own with
horses, carriage, everything, and was seen with her everywhere. She would even appear at the
races – for the town boasted a race track in those days – dressed in his cream and scarlet
colors. It was a most brazen performance, and scandalized even Miles City. One day at the
height of her notoriety I was right next to her carriage, but we never spoke as we passed by.
PRIMARY SOURCE # 5:
This primary source is an epitaph on a tombstone reported by Galen L. Tait in his memoirs.
Born in Nebraska, Tait attended the University of Nebraska in the early 1890s. While in college,
he worked during a summer vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota, near Deadwood. There
he became fascinated with Deadwood’s Wild West past. After a career as a real estate
developer, lawyer, and prominent figure in Maryland’s Republican Party, Tait published his
memoirs in 1952.
Epitaph on a Tombstone
Here lies the bod ...